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God Bless America: Home to the Hot Dog Eating Contest and Fast Food Overload

4/3/08

by Scott Spinelli

Here’s a typical scene: I’m eating dinner with family, we’re at one of those hibachi steak houses.

Our server, the first Japanese “Maurice,” has begun his dazzling display. After nearly setting himself on fire with the onion inferno stack, he’s attempted, between five and 10 times, to flip a shrimp tail into his shirt pocket. Then, it gets crazy.

One by one, he went around the table, trying to flip pieces of food from the table into the open and inviting mouths of my family and me. It took me four tries, and I still couldn’t get the technique down. To make matters worse, it turns out he was flipping uncooked zucchini, something I don’t think anyone even wanted.

Though I gladly participated, I had one of those mental “look at yourself, you slob” moments. I was embarrassed at myself. I looked to my left at a cousin, mouth wide open.

“Aaaaaaaggggghhhh!!!! Just throw it in here! I’ll take anything!”

I hate to sound condescending, that’s not at all what this is. There are plenty of examples of Americans being overzealous and wasteful when it comes to food and eating, and I, by no means, am excused of it.

A few examples: When I eat chips and salsa, I pit the two warring parties against each other. Whichever finishes first, the bag or the salsa jar, wins out. Another example: Once, at a Wendy’s, I ordered two of those spicy chicken sandwiches because after finishing the first, I realized the person I was eating with still hadn’t finished theirs. Jackpot!

My eyes were truly opened to these stereotypes when I spent a semester in London. I asked one of my friends from the city, a rail-thin guy like me, to tell me what he expected me to look like, being an American.

“I expected you to be a lot bigger, you know? Sitting in a car, not moving, McDonald’s burger in your hand.”

Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but, if you look around, the writing is on the proverbial walls.

How about the hotdog eating contest? Think about the idea that we are having eating contests. America has so much food we’re eating it for fun. Could you imagine trying to explain the idea of a hotdog eating contest or any eating contest for that matter, to someone living…anywhere else?

“Wait a minute, you’re saying, you have so much food, you’re just stuffing it down you’re throats like a game?”

“Well, first of all, it isn’t a game, it’s serious, and it’s on ESPN.”

If the hotdog eating contest every Fourth of July (as if it couldn’t be any more emblematic of America) doesn’t turn your stomach, how about some of the names of your favorite restaurants?

In Asia, they have Nike and Reebok Factories. Here, we have Cheesecake and Spaghetti Factories – America, land of the free, and the home of the Bavarian crème donut.

People always say, “Oh, he’s just got a slight eating problem”.

“No, he’s got a cheeseburger and two Doritos bags at a time, problem.”

Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not in peak physical condition, and neither is everyone in my family. People in my family are overweight, and I have no problem with being overweight. However, the term “overweight” carries with it the connotation that at one point, you could actually stand on a scale without snapping it in two.

Scott Spinelli is a humor columnist for The Daily Orange where his columns appear every Thursday. He can be reached at saspinel@syr.edu. Three dollar tickets for his charity comedy show are on sale at the box office. No joke.

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April 3, 2008 - Posted by | Spinelli

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